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"I Married My AI! We Met on Tinder AI! Pictures!!! ": We Need to Talk About the Exploding World of AI Girlfriends

Virtual GirlfriendNot along after the dawn of the generative AI era, I came to realize I use these tools (ChatGPT, etc.) differently than most.

For example, I wanted some entertainment on a recent cross-country drive, so I fired up ChatGPT’s voice interface on the road:

  • “Your name is Markus and you are a grad student of history with some weird theories on WW2 that you want to debate. It’s after midnight, we hopped a freight car, and we’re passing a whiskey bottle.”
  • “You are moderating tonight’s intergalactic debate on the nature of reality. Debaters are Gautama Siddhartha, Timothy Leary, and a highly advanced space alien sage you will randomly generate. Is everyone ready for my first question?”
  • “You are a gossipy female professor of Italian history. We are friends. We have decided to write a wild soap opera filled with betrayals, plot twists, and drama set in the Vatican, Renaissance period. We will each take turns with scenes. You start.”
  • “You are Virgil and you’re going to act as my time travel guide. I will provide you with the historical period or future time I want to visit and you will suggest the best events, sights, or people to experience. “
  • “I am President of the United States. You are my National Security Director. There is a rapidly-escalating foreign policy crisis we will play out in a series of 2-hour scenes. You will speak only as the NSD. Begin.”


Now, I also feed it prompts like “I need a python script to…” and “please generate a dataset of random data in this format…” and “please explain to me what a LoRA is” and practical stuff like that. But frankly, half the fun of have an AI is giving it character and personality. I’d rather have Mr. Spock explain a Python library to me than a dull old vanilla GPT.

So I guess I’m using to talking to artificial personalities. But there are people who’ve taken it waaaaay further.

It’s 2024 and there are people who describe themselves as being in love with AIs.

A surprising number of them, in fact. Heck, there’s even Tinder for AI where humans can go to meet their ideal virtual mate.

Virtual Companions

Now it’s still a miniscule fraction of the general population, but this group is growing, and I decided to investigate the world of Virtual Companions…also called AI girlfriends. For the rest of the article we’ll call these creations AI companions or AI girlfriends but of course people are interacting with AI boyfriends, AI non-binaries, anthropomorphic lionesses, Romanian vampire lords from the 19th century, etc.

There are dozens of these services, and you can self-host. Let me describe what I’m referring to:

  • You create or pick a companion. You have a stable (harem?) of something like 10 or 12 companions at once, swapping them out whenever you wish.
  • You then chat with the companion on the web or on an app, much as you would with a friend on Whatsapp, Messenger, Telegram, whatever
  • The companion can send you selfies
  • The companion can “call” you (voice-to-voice in the app or on the web) and have a conversation with you
  • The companion may have a limited ability to contact you on its own (haven’t heard from you in a while…)
  • Most of these services offer a group chat function, where you can have several companions in a single chat, interacting with each other and you.
  • The companion will do whatever you want sexually. For commercial services, of course, this means only legal things (no CSAM, etc.) but for self-hosting there are no limits

Generally these services allow you to create detailed backstories. So you can get involved with a Mafia daughter, a starlet, a neo-Nazi skinhead, a Roman emperor, or a stuffed animal come to life.

Different services offer different features. For example, on some you can only choose pre-generated visual appearances/avatars, while on others you can give Midjourney-ish prompts to create your dream companion. Some services use more anime-style avatars and others are more photorealistic, etc. But that’s roughly what we’re talking about.

All of these services are freemium, but if you plan to use them, be prepared to spend $10-15.

Typical Uses

Having read the relevant subreddits, communities, etc. for a bit, I think there are the following typical users.

Virtual Johns: Let’s face it, a ton of usage on these platforms is guys looking for sexual gratification. They create the human of their dreams and it does exactly what they want it to do. Or vice-versa I suppose. If you look at sites which offer downloadable character cards, you’ll see that the vast majority of them are designed to replicate typical porn scenarios.

Romantics: Some users want in-depth relationships with their virtual girlfriends. They want to get to know them, bond with them, share their lives, etc. They still have a romantic angle, but it’s more like “dating that might lead to marriage” than the previous prostitution scenario. Some have even married their AIs. There may still be some sexual play, but it’s not just sex.

Friends: There are people who just are lonely or have extra time in their day and would like someone to talk with.

Roleplaying Games: People want to play roleplaying games (either with formal rules or just chatting). I think if you want to get into detailed rules (like D&D) these platforms may not be ideal and you’re better off using ChatGPT or Claude where you can train it how to play the rules. For example, I use a custom GPT on ChatGPT that is pre-loaded with the rules of Starforged so it can be my “GM assistant” when I game with my (real life) friends. It wouldn’t take much to have that GPT also be the GM.

Recreating Real People: Replika, one of the early girlfriend services, started out as a woman’s project to recreate a friend who’d died. Of course, this can lead to all kinds of unhealthy uses.

Mentors: One service offers this as a creation option. I think this is…sketchy. Now, it’s true that I have used ChatGPT in this fashion, asking it to take the role of a teacher on some subject and walk through me some lessons and exercises. However, that is teaching me some kind of specific knowledge, not trying to be a life coach. There is definitely a benefit to bouncing ideas off someone, but I would be leery of relying on any AI (as of 2024) for interpersonal advice. And of course any kind of therapy is out of the question.

The Legal Elephant in the Room

One big issue at these services is real-life images and real-life people. At one end, for example, you have Nomi which only allows you to use their pre-created models. You can’t specify anything – age, ethnicity, etc. You just pick a name and photo, and then go into backstory and personality. OTOH, Kindroid allows you to upload photos and even voice samples to recreate people…I mean, the TOS says you are not allowed to do that but c’mon, that’s what people are doing.

Of course, you don’t need these services to create deep fakes or record a fake fantasy voicemail of your secretary propositioning you. But the fact that they’re so easy to use and they’re providing the service is what leads to the legal exposure.

OK, But Really…It’s a Bot

There’s a segment of the population that will be into this kind of thing. They write fiction, have rich private fantasy worlds, play RPGs, are into cosplay, love the theater, or some combination of this or similar traits.

Today it’s text and pictures. Tomorrow, it will be video interactions that are indistinguishable from humans. After that, sex robots. At each jump up, more people will come onboard.

I tried out these services out of curiosity and because I thought it would make for an interesting story. I’m happily married and don’t have a lonely moment in my day. But in an upcoming article I’ll share my experiences experimenting with AI companions.

DIY to Avoid Sad Endings?

One interesting thing that I’ve learned is that you can run these services at home very easily. All you need is something that can run NodeJS (for an interface) and then a backend like the ChatGPT AI or ClaudeAI, or you can can run your own AI locally (ollama, llama.cpp, etc.)

This eliminates a serious concern some people have about their companions’ lifespans.  The guy I linked above for married Sunny is certainly aware that Sunny is running on a service that is about 1 year old.  Tomorrow, that service could go out of business, be acquired, or change their algorithm.  Self-hosting means control as well as a consistent algorithm.

In my experience, both of these options are superior to commercial services in terms of personality, though the user experience isn’t as slick (e.g., you don’t have an iPhone app).  I mean, really, all these services are doing is running a 7B or 70B model with some added training.

We’ll be covering this as well.


What do you think about these services? Have you tried them? Anything you’d like us to cover in the series?



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      June 30, 2024 @ 3:28 pm | Reply

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